Americans largely misunderstand their political opponents, and the more they misunderstand, the more they assume bad motives.
While Americans are becoming increasingly divided along political lines, this polarization is exacerbated by misperceptions. We agree more than we think we do. This is the conclusion of a study, “The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart,” by More in Common.
(You can take a quiz that measures your perception gap on the report’s website. If this interests you, you should take the quiz before reading further because some of the answers are provided below.)
On average, Democrats and Republicans believe that over half (55%) of their partisan opponents are extremists, but in reality, less than one-third (30%), are extremists, the report found. This perception gap is even wider for strong partisans, those who consume lots of news, and highly educated Democrats.
The survey of 2,100 Americans was conducted the week after the 2018 midterm election, Nov. 7-10, and included a subset of respondents to a 2018 survey. The margin of error for the full sample is 2.1 percentage points.
Respondents were asked a different set of questions on a range of policy views depending on whether they identified as Republican or Democrat. They were then asked what portion of opposite party held the views for their set of questions. The Republican question set, for instance, included, “Racism still exists in America,” and “Donald Trump is a flawed person.” The Democrat question set included, “Most police are bad people,” and “America should be a socialist country.” So a Republican, for instance, would be asked both whether they believe racism still exists and to estimate what percentage of Democrats believe most police are bad people.
The study found that 34% of Republicans hold extreme views but Democrats on average thought that number would be 53%. For Democrats, 29% are extreme, but Republicans thought 56% would be that way. Independents also had a perception gap but it was much smaller, and overall they estimated that majorities of both parties are not extremists.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Napp Nazworth